Monday 16 April 2012

Workers Playtime

Before I blogged I still wrote regularly. Indeed and whilst it’s what I do for work then with it there are still millions of words sat on the computer. This is a piece from a while back that doesn’t so much go anywhere but was an exercise in getting-all-the-setting out of the way. It is entirely what it is and no more. A doodle. It’s cluttered, somewhat messy, but a bit of fun doing nothing otherwise.

Homes For All and here the outermost line of that great success and failure Keynes Progress crowded the entrance to the Necropolis Railway, making it grand. All along the lower side of Westminster Bridge Road the ugly tenement blocks squeezed through. In places over much older buildings where so few remained. There were others like the Necropolis, she could see the spire of Christ Church and knew that close by the gated grounds of Bethlem Royal Hospital pushed back the Keynes too, even if (as she had to remind herself) Bedlam was no more and the hospital as so many things no longer royal. Keynes Progress that ran in its broken teeth manner here to where it thickened close to London Bridge, Lambeth and the Elephant & Castle. Thence south, and ever cluttered to Herne Hill and Lewisham. A new city to abut the old, a new and clean environment with housing for millions but even then not millions enough. Now but forty years later rotten, wretched and horrible. Four decades to look older than the likes of the frontage of the Necropolis where as ever families stood in orderly lines to escort their lost to Brookwood Cemetery.
This had been intended to be a good address. Not as grand as those that ran along the more enduring freshness of the south bank, but a place for government and international trade here leaning against the whorish old aunt of Edgehill Station. And there was a name that remained despite the lack of a King. There was name that continued no matter that every sign and station post said Westminster Bridge Station. That grand dame of the railways that stretched from bridge to bridge and renamed for the one - though even the clippies on the busses gave tickets to Edgehill. The road stank of the railway. Something no one here noticed, a smell of smoking tin and hot ozone. The crackling of the so-modern power lines left the top storey of Keynes Progress empty no matter the crowding, for a family might do without space but it would never miss out on Workers Playtime, Harry Secombe Presents or Just A Minute. The wireless had not been without wire for years and she thought on that as did every time she passed along the road where at Number 100 Kenneth Horne House she knew spies read the papers and picked at news from Russia, Holland or Columbia.
No one looked at her. No one looked at anyone in London. She had once witnessed the scene close by in Edgehill where a lad from the west country had been stopped by the station’s Constabulary for the suspicious behaviour of nodding to, and even greeting, everyone he passed by. It was a relatively recent change she thought, certainly she could remember people passing the time of day back no longer ago than the 1940s. Admittedly then one could hardly have walked through Edgehill without being robbed naked. Certainly not with one’s luggage, and then the most common call had been from the flocks of ladybirds with their mock dandy clothes and love by the minute. You never saw that now. Crime had no colour. Thieves were just thieves. The cly-fakers still had pockets to pick but the dragsmen had no carriages and if the maltoolers might still steal in a crowded bus they would never recognise the name. Some remained of course where those that had once been ladybirds worked for a Hector or changed a little so that a mug-hunter was now just a mugger. She could not remember what people had called a murderer. She supposed it did not matter since neither would anyone else outside of her family, and they be unlikely to wonder at just another murder (and would call it murder even if they had). In that they would have been wrong. For she did not commit murder, she would never do anything so dry, so dull sounding. No, she had assassinated. The difference between what she had done and some accidental battering she thought to be rather profound. And even if anyone had looked at her what would they see? Another woman in the boiler suits most here, and more southwards, wore, because they were effectively free. A woman in heavy boots repaired and resurrected year after difficult year. Like so many others.
            Yet in the Necropolis they wore suits, they wore skirts and if they wore boots then those polished with Cherry Blossom or Wrens, or at need tallow or dripping. You could see the latter as dogs would lick them and have to be kicked away, ruining the shine. But not here. She tugged off her baggy cap. A touch of individuality only in that it was the same touch as half the people also passing by affected. Cricket style, slightly peaked and hers marked with the Admiral logo similarly stylish in that it was preferred by so many. She stopped to pay her respects and there too she was not alone in company with anyone else over the age of twenty-one. Just for a moment to see the family of the dead, a young woman weeping and an older man stiff in his Camphor-smelling red tunic. Another old soldier, who in his case wore ribbons from Ireland and Cumberland. She almost regretted what she had done then. She had not known the family had a hero in their ranks. And that was truly how she felt about those that had fought. Especially in that nasty little conflict when it had been nastier still along the borders and the Lakes. Where King Rupert, deposed, had sought and won the support of a Scotland that had long forgotten the history of Covenant and Popery and instead had welcomed all the oil that their North Sea now provided. Good for Scotland, not much either way for the now octogenarian Rupert who was said to live in paranoid fear of English assassins from the Socialist Intelligence Service or ever since Princes Gate and the Persian Embassy siege a commando raid from the now famous Socialist Air Service.
She laughed. In the years since England’s rather wet revolution it was as if they had to use the S word on everything just to remind themselves, all things to the contrary, that was what they were. Apart from all the personal ownership, and the way people were allowed to keep the titles, and the grants for new businesses – and frankly everything else. The English had just not been very good at revolution. The excesses of the eternal Stuart line might have gone on still she thought, had the absolute power of the monarchy not been challenged by chaps in shorts smoking pipes. Russia had put down its own uprising with cavalry and machine guns. Britain had ousted its King and then had to look around for what to do next almost over the course of an afternoon. It had taken longer for the King’s train to reach Scotland than it had for the revolution to be complete. But then England was such a little country compared to the gaudy desperation of the Dutch and the bloody strife of Russia it had probably seemed a bit impolite to make too much of a fuss. One or two of the mourners noticed her smile, hurriedly she moved on.
Poor Sebastian (she recalled) had been left on the steps of Buckingham House ready to defend Queen Greta from a mob that had never arrived. Instead two days later he had been asked to show the Members of the new Parliament, sent to deal with such matters, to where the glamorous old Swede had sat and taken tea with them and where she had agreed whole-heartedly with the exile of her despised husband. And so Sebastian had stood there with his old service revolver in hand whilst she agreed that the sprawling palace was owned by the state. Had agreed a stipendiary rent for her apartments and there she remained to this very day. She was indeed rather happy to see most of the old parklands opened up as whilst old as she was it had been terribly dull for her for so many years being the only one that had cared to feed the ducks. People still referred to her as the Queen, just as they called Rupert the King. Just in the manner as if not actually of here.  The Scots had got Rupert and shortly thereafter, all that oil. The English got to keep Queen Greta and in many ways seemed to have gotten the best out the whole thing.
If there had been issue there might even have been a restoration by now but as there was not then England it seemed would muddle through. After nearly four hundred years of increasingly mad, bad and frankly embarrassing Stuart rule people were still relieved, as if a slightly dotty Aunt still given to wanting to know what had happened to slavery had finally passed away. At least Rupert had married outside the line. Ever favouring the arts and the theatre he had become entranced with Greta, a starlet and at the time one of most desired of international film actresses. Once it would have been unthinkable for the Royal heir to marry a commoner, but since his father the-then King Charles VI had thought himself to bbe the Under Gardener it had been something of a relief to the Court to think they might make the end of the century without a monarch with one eye and three testicles. So England was socialist, which upset Rome no end. But which had on balance pleased the god fearing Columbians who whilst god fearing because it was part of the Covenant actually just did not want others to be Catholic. England was no longer a long distance ally of jumbled South America - and that was good enough for Uncle Nate.
Passing a tobacconist she nearly bowled over a greying man who she caught and steadied before apologising for the rudeness. She released him adding that her thoughts had been elsewhere.
‘Excuse me but have we met?’
She thought not, adding ‘I’m sure I would have remembered.’
He smiled at the pretty compliment but persisted, ‘Perhaps it was some time ago? School maybe? Or did you work at Comyn Ching & Co at some point.’
            ‘I’m afraid not.’
            It was a fine day if close and the old man too seemed to remember a time when people might pass the time of day. If he did then he was probably armed as many old people were, a sap perhaps if not with a cane many might not especially need to get about. He blew out his cheeks, ‘Surely you went to school? Milburne perhaps?’
            ‘Again and I’m afraid not. Now if you’ll excuse me?’
            But he was not to be so easily put off, falling in step as she made to walk away. He pondered, ‘My dear lady I cannot possibly be mistaken, perhaps you were once involved with the Army in some capacity?’ he noticed something, nodding. “Indeed yes, I think I have it. You were one of those politicals? Up north – Cumberland? Or if not, then something to do with the political, there was a commissar?’
            ‘I was only a young Lieutenant of course, in the Corps of Signals. A frightful time,’ he shook his head. A sad figure now and noticing her expression made a noise in his throat as if to distract her. ‘I am looking for my son,’ he said to change the subject. He walked with her still until coming to where a stream of people wound down one of the many sets of steps to Edgehill Station she joined them, ducked and merged with the shoal of boiler suits, and was gone. 

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